Friday, August 17, 2007

Eco-heads File BP Pollution Permit Appeal

Seeking to put on hold BP’s permit to discharge more pollution to Lake Michigan and allow the public to weigh in formally on the matter, the Alliance for the Great Lakes today filed a petition asking the court to suspend the permit and re-start the public appeal process.

Filed with Indiana’'s Office of Environmental Adjudication, the petition calls into question the state’s handling of the discharge permit it granted BP’s Whiting, Ind. refinery, and says the Alliance and others weren’'t served notice about the final permit and the appeal process.

“The Indiana permit process goes to the heart of people’s right to fully scrutinize governmental decisions allowing pollution discharges to our waterways,” said Alliance President Cameron Davis, who filed the petition for review of the permit.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is under fire from the public and lawmakers for issuing BP a permit to discharge nearly 1,500 pounds of ammonia and 5,000 pounds of suspended solids from treated sludge into Lake Michigan daily -- increases of 54 percent and 35 percent respectively. The permit also gives BP until 2012 to meet strict federal limits for discharging mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin.

The department’s failure to notify some or all stakeholders who submitted comments on the draft permit, including the Alliance and the LaPorte County Environmental Association, resulted in the public being shut out of the formal appeal process, according to the Alliance petition.

Sometime after the close of the public comment period, the agency posted the BP discharge permit on its website -- but didn’'t list an effective date or otherwise indicate that it was a final permit. The agency now says the 15-day period in which the public could appeal the permit – a period that starts as soon as interested parties receive notice of the permit – has already expired.

“Everyone who drinks Lake Michigan water should have the ability to challenge pollution permits, but the public never had much of a chance with the BP permit,” said Davis. “Indiana went from the close of the public comment period, to permit issuance in about a month; this is unheard of.”

The last time BP’s permit was re-issued was in 1990.

The petition seeks a stay of the BP discharge permit, and further asks the court to start the clock over with a new permit appeal time.

The petition is online at

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